Monthly Archives: August 2015

John Mackey’s Great Point about Min Wage

I finally watched the Reason interview with John Mackey, and he brought up a great point about the minimum wage.

If businesses are really so greedy that they want to pay absolute bottom dollar for people to work for them, barring already existing laws, why wouldn’t the company just pay people in the US 10 cents/hour? Why is it that wages at the bottom end all look pretty similar? Why is it that, even if you removed existing wage controls, they couldn’t get people to work for them at 10 cents/hour?

It’s because they don’t control those prices. Wages are controlled by a dynamic market process that depends on individual productivity. You can’t imagine a price floor for human labor any more than you can imagine up a price ceiling. You can’t demand they pay $15 an hour any more than they can demand you pay $10/pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, businesses aren’t the central arbiter in wage pricing. If they want to continue as a business, they have to set prices according to labor markets. Pay people more than they produce and the business dies. Pay people less and the business dies.
You can’t ascribe absolute agency to the business, and you can’t pretend businesses are operating under different economic laws than you are.

What if.. Contemporary Nomads

As I was driving home from work the other day, I thought of how strange it was that I make this drive twice a day many days a week. I wondered what benefit a stationary, cordoned off space brought me. I then wondered that about society at large.

I’m obviously not suggesting that at any point this paradigm will flip, at least not completely, but it was kind of fun to imagine a world where having a place to own and store things was not so important. I know a lot of what we have now is dictated by proximity to our value creating activities, but as robots begin to take over more and more responsibilities I would have to imagine location becomes less of an obligation and more of an opportunity. How cool would it be to own just a minimal set of items or be able to rent them and just move around towards whatever interested you the most at the time. Or, maybe travel could become so cheap and resources so non-scarce that we could store what mattered in one home location and spend a lot more time rotating around the globe. AirBnB already kind of enables this. What if we had nano-bots that could give birth to and destroy structures very quickly? What if the organization of municipal services was a lot more modular?

What if technology allowed us to effectively live, at any moment, in a world of our own ethereal whim?

Applying Bruce Lee to Learning

I was listening to an interview with Bruce Lee in which he discussed his philosophies, and one part really struck me. It did so because if you took out the words “Martial Arts” and replaced them with “Education”, you get a quote which beautifully describes one of the key principles of learning and highlights just how intimately Bruce Lee understood the fundamentals of human action.

As you read through this quote and Lee talks about the flash and show, just imagine the ridiculous buildings colleges are erecting and the money they spend on marketing materials and tribal pomp and circumstance. As he talks about being “flooded with cocky” just think of the elitist attitude that the institutions of college attempt to imbue their students with: “You’re here, and that means you’re the future! You’re a which means you’re a winner!”

Here’s Lee’s quote

Man, listen to me, ok? To me, ultimately, EDUCATION means honestly expressing yourself. Now it is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel, then, like pretty cool and all that. Or I can make all kinds of phony things, you see what I mean? And be blinded by it. Or I can show you some really fancy movement, but, to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself….and to express myself honestly, that, my friend is very hard to do. And you have to train. You have to keep your reflexes so that when you want it…it’s there! When you want to move, you are moving and when you move you are determined to move. Not taking one inch, not anything less than that! If I want to punch, I’m going to do it man, and I’m going to do it! So that is the type of thing you gave to train yourself into it; to become one with it. You think….(snaps his fingers) ….it is.

Watch the video of the interview here.

On “Thinking about” others

There’s this idea that’s taken hold recently in a lot of the entrepreneur literature that I read that suggests that we greatly overestimate our capacity for planning and strategizing, and that the individual who executes on a bad idea learns more and progresses farther than an individual that plans the “perfect” idea and never lets the world touch it. Essentially, we’re pretty terrible at knowing the unknown, and creating an elaborate conceptual framework on top of an unknown foundation means you’ve built an imaginary conceptual framework.

I think this is very healthy mindset to adopt; especially for me as I’m a serial schemer.

However, I think this concept is pretty applicable to other spheres of life, one in particular: social interaction. I’m sure we’ve all been told to “think about others” before we act.

What the hell does that mean?

“Think about how your mother will feel if you get that tattoo.”
“Think about how your friends will react if you wear those shoes.”
“Think about how hard Suzie will slap you when you tell her that dress makes her look like a tomato.”

And, every godawful busybody’s favorite: “THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!”

The “Think about” command instructs us to concoct an elaborate conceptual framework on top of what we know about the group/individual in question. The thing is, like an entrepreneur analyzing market conditions, we probably don’t know jack about people’s thoughts and needs, especially whn they’re strangers. And, even if we can suppose what they might feel, we don’t know what they can tolerate or appreciate.

The “Think first” mindset asks us to operate in a world of our own imagination.

So, while I’m not advocating YOLO. I am suggesting that next time we begin to call upon the conditioned reflex to “think about” how another person/group is going to feel when we go to interact, maybe we should just “ask about” how they feel and what they’ll tolerate instead. If we don’t we could be leaving a lot of authenticity currency on the table, so to speak, leaving both parties much poorer.